GSBS student Duncan awarded NIH F31 fellowship

October 17, 2013

Tracey Barnett

The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston would like to congratulate GSBS student Aundrietta Duncan for receiving a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research.  Her proposal:

TRIM24 may be an important oncogene in breast cancer: When genes involved in normal cellular growth become mutated, giving cells a growth advantage, these altered genes are termed oncogenes.  Cells possessing oncogenes, at abnormally high levels, will gain increased growth potential and the ability to bypass signals that would normally cause the cell to stop growing, ultimately leading to cancer.  Recently, our lab identified Trim24 (Tripartite motif-containing 24) a multifunctional protein that is present at higher levels in human breast cancers than in normal tissues. Breast cancer patients with higher TRIM24 levels were shown to have shorter life expectancy than those with lower levels of TRIM24. When we increase the level of TRIM24 in non-cancerous breast cells, we observe accelerated cell growth. Together, these observations suggest that TRIM24 might play important roles in promoting breast cancer cell growth. Further understanding is needed for TRIM24’s role in normal and cancerous development of breast tissue (mammary epithelium) in an animal system that mimics human breast biology.  It is also imperative to understand which of TRIM24’s multiple functions is the key to its cancer promoting activities.  Since high levels of TRIM24 promote faster cell growth and are associated with shorter survival of breast cancer patients, I hypothesize that TRIM24 is an oncogene in mammary gland epithelium and that specific functional domains are required for its oncogenic activity. Findings from our proposed research may have implications in providing a new marker for patient prognosis and offer a new target for cancer treatment.

Duncan is affiliated with the Genes and Development Program and her advisor is GSBS Dean Michelle Barton, Ph.D.